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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Oblivion

August 5th, 2013

Oblivion - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Oblivion was a spring release, which isn't a great time to release a film, but it is far from a terrible time either. It opened in first place at the box office, but quickly faded away after that. It is hard to get excited by its box office numbers, but it wasn't a real bomb either. It will need help on the home market to recoup its $120 million production budget. Does it deserve to be seen by more on the home market? And is the DVD and / or Blu-ray worth picking up?

The Movie

The film begins with Jack talking about the world before the aliens invaded. In his dreams, he's back in New York City and sees a woman he knows, but can't remember who she is. When he wakes up, it is 2077. He then explains who the aliens were, The Scavengers, who destroyed the Moon causing massive earthquakes... No it wouldn't. Not unless chunks of the Moon hit the Earth, which of course could happen, eventually. It takes a lot of energy to escape the Moon's gravitational force and hit the Earth. Since we see most of the Moon still in place, just in smaller chunks, plus a new ring forming around the Earth, we know the force that destroyed the Moon was not that energetic. Plus, the gravity is still there, just a little more spread out. We would still have tides, just a little bit less extreme. There certainly wouldn't be worldwide tsunamis.

Moving on. Humans were victorious against the alien invaders, by nuking the Earth. Wait? What? Why would you nuke the Earth to repel alien invaders from SPACE? Presumably, they have spaceships and don't need ground troops. Never mind. If we question all of the plot holes, we will be here for a while. but the Earth was left mostly uninhabitable in the process. Because of this, all of humanity are migrating to Titan and are currently on the orbiting headquarters called the Tet. They are mostly on the Tet. Left behind are Jack and Victoria. They are workers who have had their minds wiped for this mission. They keep the drones going. These drones protect the factories that suck up ocean water for fusion power, which the Titan base will need. However, there are some remnants of the Scavengers left on Earth who work to destroy these drones and it is Jack and Victoria's mission to keep them going till the job is done and they can join the rest of humanity. Until then, the only human contact they have are each other, and a daily report from Sally back on the Tet. In just two weeks, their mission will be over and they can rejoin the rest.

This day, there are two downed drones, which is serious, as there are too many drones out of service and if these don't go up, one of the factories will be left without protection at night, and that's when the Scavengers attack. If Tet was able to send enough spare parts, this wouldn't be a problem, but Jack has to improvise to fix the first drone, Drone 166, while the second drone isn't sending a transponder signal, making it much more difficult to find. He does eventually find it, but it has fallen down a sinkhole. Or to be more specific, he finds part of it. It's a trap. It looks bad for Jack, but he's bailed out by Drone 166.

That night, Jack has yet another dream about the mystery woman, but wakes up to the sound of an explosion. One of the fusion factories was destroyed by the Scavengers. This has put the whole mission at risk. They also detect a strange signal that Jack has to check out. It's inside the Empire State Building, or what little of it is above the sedimentary. The Scavengers have rigged up a transponder that is sending a code into space. Victoria is able to decode it. It's co-ordinates. It's co-ordinates to the middle of nowhere in Grid 17. He shuts down the signal before he is to head back to base.

Instead, Jack heads near the radiation zone, the zone where the radiation from the nuclear war is unsafe. He then ducks below where Victoria can track him and heads to a secret sanctuary. Unlike Victoria, who is eager to go to Titan, Jack still feels a real connection to Earth and there's a cabin in the woods he has set up to be his home away from home. He's set up some solar panels to power some lights and an old turntable where he can listen to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Asia... Asia? There's a band I haven't thought of in a while. ... And now I have "Only Time Will Tell" stuck in my head.

Jack takes a nap, has yet another dream about this mystery woman, but wakes up when he hears something roar past him. It's a spaceship in reentry. Victoria is able to track it to where it lands, Grid 17. This is what the Scavengers brought down. Jack goes to check it out, while Victoria contacts Sally on the Tet for instructions and Sally tells Jack to leave it to the drones. Do not investigate. Of course, Jack ignores her advice and continues. He finds the spaceship. It's an old pre-war Earth spaceship. Why would the Scavengers want to bring down a pre-war spaceship?

The answer to that is a spoiler, so I will end the plot summary there.

I'm of two minds when it comes to this movie. Firstly, as you can probably tell from my plot summary, there were more than a few plot hole / technical gaffes that bugged me. Some of them were at least partially explained by the big twist, but some were just bad science. The ones that are explained by the big twist might actually be worse, as they made it clear something happened that we were not being told. It made the world we were being shown feel less real. Since it was less real, I was less engaged by the film. I knew what I was being told wouldn't matter once the big twist was revealed. Secondly, while the movie looked good, while it has a strong sense of style, it didn't have a lot of depth. Too many elements felt borrowed from too many other films.

On the other hand, the action is well done and there are some tense moments in the movie. I did like the look of the movie, especially the sci-fi designs. Additionally, the acting is strong, especially Andrea Riseborough. Some of the voiceover Tom Cruise has to deliver is a little corny, but I won't hold that against him. Meanwhile, Melissa Leo and Morgan Freeman were underutilized. It all adds up to a movie that is okay. Nothing more, nothing less.

The Extras

The extras are fine with an audio commentary track with the director, Joseph Kosinski, and the star, Tom Cruise. It is not exactly a thriller track. Up next is a trio of making of featurettes, including a look at the story, the music, and the special effects. Finally, there are some deleted scenes. In total, the featurettes and the deleted scenes run less than 30 minutes, which is not a lot for a first-run release.

On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with the film's technical presentation. It's damn near reference material. The level of details, the colors, the contrast, everything is top notch. Meanwhile, it goes without saying that there are no compression issues, banding, digital artifacts, etc. The audio is just as good as the video with an active 7.1 surround sound track. There is plenty of activity in the surround sound speakers, including directional effects, panning, etc. The bass is especially active.

The Blu-ray costs $20, just $3 more than the DVD, and it includes the DVD and digital copy. Given the technical presentation, this is an excellent deal.

The Verdict

Oblivion is a fine movie. It's not a good movie, it is not a bad movie. It is just a fine movie. If you are interested in renting, the DVD is fine, but if you want to purchase the film, the Blu-ray Combo Pack is the better deal.

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Filed under: Video Review, Oblivion, Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Andrea Riseborough, Joseph Kosinski